Early Release titles feel like a mixed bag. There are games in there that feel like they could easily be full releases- try telling me that Don’t Starve isn’t already well worth the money- and there are games that feel like they have a long way to go yet. There is, however, a third category of game: games you hope have a lot of work left, because what’s there is just not very interesting. That is where Sir, You Are Being Hunted has left me. It runs well, its bugs are few, and the basic tenets of the game are there… but it’s just kind of boring.
Roaming the English countryside, searching for resources, the game is clearly part of the rapidly growing Survival genre: games like Minecraft, Don’t Starve, and more, with randomly generated worlds, hunger to manage, and an open landscape to explore littered with enemies. The enemies, in this case, are gentleman robots, complete with top hats and classic English hunting rifles. Patrolling through the scattered villages and fields, they animatronically march forward, ignorant of the player until you disturb them by sight or sound. Your mission is to find the various pieces of a shattered device, and reform them. The intro implies that doing so would teleport you to safety, or something of the sort, but I have yet to achieve it or see anyone else do so.
And that’s… basically it. Unlike other survival games, there doesn’t seem to be any inventing, crafting, building, or such mechanics. You scrounge for food and ammo, and you look for pieces of the device. As you do so, your path often intersects the mechanical hunters, forcing you to confront them in order to achieve your objectives. These confrontations are wholly unsatisfying. With simplistic AI and weapons, it becomes a deeply simplistic affair- they will either shoot you until you die, or you will destroy them before they can. It is possible to run and hide, but given that they have guns, sprinting across an open field does little to protect you. Unless you are completely outnumbered, it is usually better to go all in and just dive at them. Any fight you survive is easy to recover from, as your life regenerates, and the rewards from looting a robot’s body are significant. My first run, I found a hatchet, and used it to murder a good seven robots before getting bored and starting a fight I couldn’t possibly win.
(The following paragraph was added after publishing)
At its core, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a stealth game- there is a visibility meter in the corner of the screen, and breaking line of sight (if possible) is the best way to escape your pursuers. The nature of the enemy AI and their weapons, however, makes going all in a better strategy- either you will kill your enemy and recover lost life as well as their loot, or you likely didn’t have a chance of escaping anyway, because you were so vastly outgunned. The English fields do not provide an overabundance of cover, and it is often necessary to run a long way before escape is achievable. There are flying robots with spotlights that make the stealth a more dangerous, interesting game, but I only encountered one in my playtime. Luck, perhaps, but all the same.
There are three types of enemies. There are a few buildings. There are a handful of weapons and food varieties. And… that’s basically it. There are some odds and ends as well- matches for starting a fire, traps for catching animals, et cetera- but there just isn’t very much to do, and what there is, isn’t very interesting. There were a few graphical glitches as well- textures on hillsides freaking out, mostly- but on the whole, the presentation is remarkably polished. This should be a good thing, but instead it makes me worried. Given that it runs this smoothly, does that mean they feel that the project is mostly done? Because to me, it feels like they have a lot of work to do still.
I can’t in good faith recommend Sir, You Are Being Hunted even at the twenty dollar mark. It’s not a question of money so much as it is a question of time- and for my time, everything it tries to do is being done better by someone else. Spend another few hours with Don’t Starve, that’s what I would recommend.